Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Mountain View: Cold Storage

Jay Brown, owner of Mountain View Cemetery in Altadena, does his impression of a ghost. Either that, or I do my impression of a bad photographer.

Jay took us to a basement where he showed us the Victorian-era equivalent of the metal body storage boxes I showed you yesterday. In pre-refrigeration days, dead folks were temporarily kept below ground while they awaited whatever it was they awaited.

Pictured here is - - -

Well, it's what it looks like. My mother used to have one of these. You'd screw it onto the kitchen counter, feed meat through the cup and grind the meat into hamburger. This is an old item, but the modern equivalent upstairs looks pretty much the same, if shinier.

Now, hold on, nobody is grinding meat at Mountain View. As Jay explained, when a body is cremated you don't get 100% nice, fluffy ash. You some lumps.

Jay is descended from members of the Indiana Colony, the first Caucasian settlers of Pasadena. There had been whites here before, but these guys made it into a town. The colony arrived in 1874 and the cemetery was founded in 1882. Jay is a member of the Giddings family (the Giddings Browns, to be exact) who, if I have this straight, has owned the cemetery since the beginning. Or thereabouts. Jay remembers coming to the cemetery when he was about 12 years old and helping to arrange flowers. He's always been comfortable there.

He made us comfortable, too, oddly enough. People die, I'm sorry to say. Most of us don't like to think about this stuff but I'm glad some people have it figured out. We're not allowed to bury our loved ones in our back yards around here.

Here's an interesting though not conclusive list of people buried at Mountain View. And this 2005 LA Times article gets into a bit of detail about a few of the famous folks there.

I didn't ask Jay how many people are buried at Mountain View, but after 120 years, even the vastness of 60 acres will begin to fill up. We can talk about that tomorrow.


Kalei's Best Friend said...

THE Eldridge Cleaver? wow, and George Reeves are the only 2 names I recognize..

Kalei's Best Friend said...

BTW saw the convo yesterday on no filming... that's how it is where I live... maybe it has to do w/the residents? The HOA here has it written where no filming unless its scrutinized by board.. and we all know how board of directors can be. And it could be because we have studios here?

Bellis said...

Is that white lump next to the meat grinder a real piece of burnt human? Please say it's a fake. Is there still a faint musty odor in that underground morgue? How interesting that Jay is one of the Giddings family that founded Mountain View, and piped water to it from Millard Canyon.

Petrea Burchard said...

Octavia Butler was a famous author, KBF. I just read her book, "Kindred," last year. And Richard Feynman--well, you should probably just read up on him. A super interesting guy. And there are more.

I don't know the roots of the filming difficulties. It could be that local residents don't want filming here. But if people really didn't want it we'd simply outlaw it, and that's not the case.

Bellis, I neither saw nor photographed human bodies or parts thereof during my visit. And the basement smelled fine.

Jay told us his family had come here with the Indiana Colony. The further details I got at The slide show caption about the mortuary part of the business is where I found the Giddings link.

Bellis said...

Sorry I misidentified the white stuff next to the meat grinder. Looking at it again, it looks like bread. Your photos today are fascinating.

As someone who once looked after film crews on location, I heard their grumbles about the cost, including the permits (car parking, etc), the required police and fire presence, the compensation of neighbors, etc. But most of the other cities in the LA area do the same. I love it when they film near me - they can park in my yard and eat on my deck anytime, and the money is tax-free.

dive said...

Suddenly my porridge seems slightly less appetising.

Petrea Burchard said...

The lump in the picture is stuffing from an old couch, I think.

Deb said...

Interesting series of pictures. I saw a bone grinder used for human remains recently. It was described as a cremulator, a word which somehow made it seem less gruesome.

Petrea Burchard said...

That is much nicer than "bone grinder," Deb.

I wouldn't want to be the person whose job that is.

Katie said...

Interesting tour of Mountain View with fast-moving Jay. The picture of the cremulator (thanks for that new word Deb!) gave me pause though. Nice that Jay made you all comfortable being there. One must get very pragmatic about death working at such a place. I spent Thanksgiving years ago with distant relatives who worked at the family funeral home. Listening to all the matter-of-fact "shop talk" was very enlightening.

John Sandel said...

Relatives like that are always the death of the party.

Bellis said...

No John, they're the life and the soul of parties. Who doesn't want to hear corpse jokes?

Petrea Burchard said...

Having buried two parents, I'm grateful to the professionals who handle these details for us. I appreciate a gentle, but straightforward approach. Some of this stuff we just never think about! If you work with it day in and day out, I imagine it's not so weird after a while.

Trish said...

Jay helped us bury many of those in my mother's family in his grounds. Thanks to Jay, I DO know where one set of my great-grandparents are buried.

I have dealt with more than my fair share of funeral "professionals". Jay and his crew and one guy in my neighborhood are the only ones I'd say are professionals without quote marks.

Dina said...

A grinder? :( It makes me glad we don't have cremation in Jewish Israel.